It was joy itself to be in the Aviva Stadium on Saturday to see the Irish rugby team play with courage, skill and commitment. Let the naysayers and nitpickers keep their counsel now: Ireland have beaten the All Blacks of New Zealand again and written a new page in this country’s story of sporting excellence.
The capacity crowd of 51,000 people were enthralled and every man, woman and child present at Lansdowne Road played their part in driving on their heroes, creating an atmosphere which has not been seen for almost two years.
The most encouraging aspect of the day’s doings was the commitment from Ireland captain Johnny Sexton that there will be no resting upon laurels as he declared this the beginning of a new rugby endeavour.
All eyes are once more on the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France. This is a competition in which we have had more bad days than good despite a lot of pre-competition hopes.
On that basis, it is better that all of us take things one game at a time for now. Last Saturday week Ireland blew away a rather flat-footed Japanese team, leading some critics to muse that the home side beat nothing very much.
This past Saturday, the Ireland team went toe to toe with the world-beating All Blacks, who detest losing and have long ago mastered the knack of delivering a below-par performance and still managing to win. The contest was in the balance right up to the final minute as a New Zealand try and conversion would have broken Irish hearts from Malin to Mizen.
But our heroes held on and were well worth the final nine-point winning margin, and substitute Joey Carbery demonstrated the depth of the panel by coolly scoring three late penalties. Diehard supporters will also have been cheered to see some of the more seasoned players, Keith Earls, Cian Healy, and Peter O’Mahony, coming in late to shore up a do-or-die Irish performance.
The final match in this November series will now be watched with keen interest as Ireland take on Argentina, a tricky outfit who have caused us many problems in recent times past. The current buoyancy cannot lead to any kind of complacency because in modern sport, and especially international rugby, nothing ever can be taken for granted and the unexpected does happen.
We note that this was a third win over the All Blacks in the past five years. Yet it is still far from being commonplace and always worth savouring and celebrating wisely but with a deal of prudence.
Coach Andy Farrell appears to be winning with his down-to-earth approach to rugby and his panel eagerly want to play. It is Farrell’s seventh consecutive win, including a sweet victory over most everyone’s old enemy, England. It was encouraging that he acknowledged the value of the Irish crowd’s support, especially in the last 10 minutes when things were still in the balance and New Zealand were pressing hard.
The occasion was a self-contained sporting banquet and we must hope to have more such days very soon.